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Sunday, May 20, 2012

World Cup La Bresse, France

After last weeks good performance at the Czech World Cup I was very motivated to go better and break into the top 10 at this weekend’s fourth round in France.

We were treated to a tough course which was almost one main climb and descent. The climb was steep with a lot of elevation gained in a short time. A short descent offered a bit of respite before a final push to the top of the hill and then a nice long almost continuous downhill back to the bottom. A few rocky sections spiced things up and with rain forecasted for the weekend it had the potential to be a bit of a mud bath. Fortunately the weather turned it on for us for a change with sunshine and the track conditions were almost perfect.

A good start was crucial with limited passing around the course and everyone knew it, so it was pretty frantic early on with a couple of bad crashes around the start loop. I came through back a little bit further behind then I wanted but was able to move up well as we headed out onto the first full lap making it up into the top 25 fairly easily. I was feeling great and with the leaders still in sight I was in a good position to kick on. Into the first downhill and one corner in I heard an ominous hissing sound. Trying to kid myself that it was someone else’s tyre losing air I carried on for a bit but was soon forced to admit my problem.

It was pretty gut wrenching having the whole field stream by as I ran to the first tech zone and with the puncture coming so soon after the start with the field still quite close together I was soon back in last position. My spare wheels were at the bottom of the hill in the second tech zone but thankfully I was able to get going again with a Shimano neutral service wheel.

So I set off with a very big task to get back up for a decent result with 90 riders ahead of me. It took a lap to get going again with my legs seizing up a bit after the run and stop but I soon started to move up and it was good to see my position improve each lap as I crossed the line. It wasn’t easy to pass a lot of the time especially on the main climb, so I had a few hold ups along the way. I eventually made it back into the top 40 on the penultimate lap and headed out for the final effort with plenty of riders in sight to chase down. I climbed well picking people off and managed to sneak past a couple more early on down the last descent. With the finish almost in sight I couldn’t believe it when the Shimano wheel went flat as well!  I tried nursing it in but it wasn’t going to work and I didn’t want to wreck it especially as it wasn’t my wheel. So I had to run again watching my hard earned work unravel with the riders I had just passed sprinting round and heading for the finish line. I made it to the last straight and with another rider coming I jumped back on in attempt to hold him off. It was super close but he just got it and I had to settle for 38th place.

Not really how I wanted this one to pan out but that’s racing. I have another four weeks left before I head home with two more races remaining. I do get a break next week which will be nice after the five consecutive races weekends but I am very motivated to finish off strong and am looking forward to the next one at the Swiss Bike Trophy in Bern.

Thanks to Aroha and Allan for the feed/tech zone duties and Mils for the photos.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

World Cup Nove Mesto Na Morave, Czech Republic

I didn’t make it here last year so I was excited about heading to the Czech Republic to get back into World Cup action and experience the track that I had heard was probably the best on the Circuit. A big days drive took us through Switzerland, Austria, and Germany before finally arriving in Czech after 9 hours. The track didn’t disappoint and I found it hard to keep off it as it was so nice to ride. It was almost perfect for me with the 4.5km lap broken up into four climbs and descents. The organisers had kept it mostly natural utilising the terrain with plenty of bumps and dips and although technical it was still quite wide with plenty of alternate passing lines.

The race town of Nove Mesto Na Morave is in a pretty nice area with small rolling hills and a very green landscape. We stayed about 20mins away from the course in a town called Bystre and enjoyed the hospitality of Milky who would have to be the friendliest and most helpful accommodation owner I have ever stayed with anywhere. The weather was great all week and it finally started to feel like Europe could be heading into summer. Unfortunately it didn’t stay that way with the cold returning in time for the weekend and we woke up to rain and chilly temperatures on race day yet again. This time the rain didn’t hang around for too long and if anything the moisture made the track better with the roots becoming slick and causing  problems for a lot of riders but the dirt was still fairly dry.

The start is an area I have struggled with at World Cup or World Championship races so I was a bit nervous coming into this one. It was a good start loop however with two climbs to help spread everyone out a bit before the first single track section and because it was quite wide starting back in 34th position wasn’t too much of a disadvantage with plenty of passing room available.

I’m not sure what happened. I think one of the riders in front had a bit off trouble clipping in or something but I came to stop before I had even really started. It didn’t take long to get going again but at this level you lose positions so fast and having riders flying past doesn’t do much for your self confidence. I lost my composure for a little bit making some dumb passing decisions scrambling to save the situation. I tried shooting up the left on the first climb but ended up getting boxed in with slower riders in front and on the right. After taking a moment to regain a bit of breath on the short downhill I hit the next climb hard and realised I had pretty good legs finding it fairly easy to weave through the pack and doing enough to make it into the single track ahead of the worst of the traffic jam as 104 riders tried to get down a narrow trail at the same time.

I made an overly aggressive passing manoeuvre which backfired and lost me a few places round a tight corner near the end of the start loop but coming across the line and heading out onto the first proper lap I was relieved to see that I had wasn’t too far back sitting in 40th place. I relaxed and settled into my work after that. I was riding strong and seemed to have a bit of an edge over most riders on the descents so I was able to really attack the climbs passing several riders at once before recovering a bit on the downhill sections and repeating the effort on the next climb.

It’s always a bit of a shock to the system racing at World Cup level with the whole race being a constant battle with other riders to either gain or consolidate you position and any sign of weakness or loss of concentration can lose a couple of place before you even know it’s happened. I was right on my limit but as the race progressed seemed to ride even faster moving up into the thirties and then into the top twenty. I was really keen for a top 15 finish though and kept on the gas finally breaking into 14th place with two laps two go. I couldn’t afford to relax with a big group of us all very close and I knew I would have to put down a really quick final lap to ensure my place.

The last lap was hard. The first climb wasn’t too good for me and my legs were starting to tire up. A couple of people came round but I could hold their wheels. The next climb was better. I found my speed again and attacked back opening up a small gap. I had one guy nipping at my heels the whole way and we flew around the lap producing my fastest lap time of the race and almost catching another group who had previously been out of sight. Coming out of the forest to the finish area they were almost within reach and I pushed right to the line but couldn’t quite catch them finishing in 14th place.

It was a pretty good feeling to finally get a solid result in a European World Cup after several years of disappointment where I felt like I wasn’t making any progress. After this breakthrough in Czech I have a lot of confidence and will be out to back it up this weekend at the next round of the World Cup in France.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


A new one for me and quite a major event with the BMC Cup being held in conjunction with Solothurn Bike days which is a massive bike show held over two days. It brings in a big crowd as well as the top riders so it was an exciting race.

The course however was very average with over half on sealed roads and only a basic off road section that included a small climb and descent. Like the first BMC cup the rain bucketed down the night before and then race day turned out fine. It wasn’t super muddy but still enough to be a nuisance but because there was so much road everyone kept their fast dry tyres on. The main climb started off steep and this part was slippery making it unrideable and adding a short uphill run every lap.

It was quite tactical at times during the race and it was much faster sticking in a group mainly for the road section. I started reasonably well but would have liked to be a bit further up the field. Stuck a little too far back I couldn’t quite make it into the bunch I wanted for the road. I then had a slightly frustrating few laps as I was strong on the forest section but couldn’t do enough to bridge up to the next group. It wasn’t until the 4th lap that I was finally able to drop my companions on the climb and by riding the downhill as fast as I could close the gap and latch onto the faster group moving up to around the top 20. I worked hard for the next few laps trying to maintain my position and drop a few more riders. Coming into the last lap a group of five of us were battling to fit inside the top 20 and it was a super tough last climb. The pack disintegrated quickly with myself and another rider falling off the back. My legs were pretty much shot by then so I was happy to make it to the finish in 24th place.